Innovation That Matters

Teaching people to use their feature-rich phones


Since the dawn of the personal computer age, millions of us have attended training classes to learn how to build better spreadsheets and killer PowerPoint presentations. Now, as cell phones and other mobile gadgets become increasingly complex and loaded with features, entrepreneurs are finding similar opportunities in the mobile field. New Zealand’s Mobile Mentor provides hourlong one-on-one sessions as well as group training on how to use the rising number of features bundled with mobile devices. Plus, it conducts courses for phone-industry sales personnel on how to explain a mobile gadget’s advantages to customers. While some consumers are naturally adept at dealing with a device’s interface, menus and options, others greatly benefit from a bit of outside help. One of Mobile Mentor’s first customers explains: “All it would take is for someone to sit down with me for 1 hour. I’ve tried myself, got instructions from Vodafone, but it’s too hard.” Case studies on Mobile Mentor’s website illustrate how mastering a phone’s features can reap impressive productivity gains. In one example, a real estate agent learned how to use her phone to record appointments. In another, a doctor learned how to better use email and other mobile device features while protecting patient privacy. Mobile Mentor claims to have trained over 20,000 people, but the potential market is many times larger. Entire organizations are going wireless, communicating and accessing the internet via smartphones instead of laptops and landlines. To get the most from their investment, those organizations will insist their employees know how to use the full range of a device’s features. The need for training will continue to increase as phones inevitably incorporate more features. That’s because unlike computers, a mobile device’s keyboard and screen are limited to what will comfortably fit in its owner’s purse or pocket. And while many mobile devices are likely to mimic the Apple iPhone’s friendlier user interface, a mobile device—owing to its size—will never be as easy to operate as a laptop with a full-size screen and keyboard. Mobile Mentor isn’t the only outfit offering training, of course. US-based CompuTrain provides web-based and instructor-led courses for BlackBerry users. Also, the innumerable stores and mall kiosks that hawk mobile devices give buyers quick lessons. Given the fierce competition in mobile device retailing, customers may soon demand formal training as a prerequisite to buying. (Related, at Status skills—a value shift in status from from passive consumerism to mastering skills.) Spotted by: Paul Evans-McLeod



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